politics

A Day Without A Woman…in Student Affairs

Today is “A Day Without a Woman“, which is a national social-political campaign created by the same individuals/group that organized the Women’s March on Washington. This strike is in solidarity with the International Women’s Strike that is taking place in 30 countries. It is also International Women’s Day, which is “is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

Today women are called on to strike from work if they can, as well as wear red in solidarity and don’t shop, unless it is at women-owned and minority businesses. Some folks have already complained about the “privilege” of taking off work but they have not read past a headline; the organizers are very clear that not all women can take off work and that’s why there are multiple opportunities to participate. Read this article to better understand: When Did Solidarity Among Working Women Become a ‘Privilege’?by  Tithi Bhattacharya and Cinzia Arruzza.

Moving on…to Student Affairs.

Can you imagine if women in student affairs had all done a collective strike? There’d be barely any employees except the folks making six-figures.

laughing or cyring

To share: Personally, I am working today. I manage alternative breaks at my institution and 8 trips depart on Sunday – I don’t have an option because this is one of my busiest weeks of the year. But I cannot help but think of the gender inequality within the Student Affairs profession.

In 2013 I wrote the post “I’m shivering – Either winter is coming or there’s a ‘chilly climate’ in Student Affairs” Not much, unfortunately, has changed. We still are trapped by institutional sexism.At my institution and all others, I see it is a majority of men in upper-level positions while the coordinator level is mostly women.

There is a lack of research that analyzes the lack of female representation in SSAO positions, according to Yakaboski & Donahoo (2011), but here is a starting list of possible explanations (note: if there is more recent research, please share it with me!).

  • Institutional Sexism: According to Acker (1990) organizational hierarchies are male dominated and the institutional structure demands conformity to male norms. Simply put, men are more likely to be seen as best representative of university leadership and women are not seen ‘as a good fit’ for leadership because they do not fit into those male norms; if anything women must assimilate in order to get promoted (Dale, 2007) – or get put into a ‘binder full of women’.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction due to sex discrimination and racial discrimination causes women to want to leave their positions (Blackhurst, 2000)
  • Female Socialization: girls are taught to be nice and take care of another person’s needs over their own and not ask for things for themselves. This results in women not asking (or even realizing they can ask) for raises and promotion (Babcock & Laschever, 2007).
  • Not on the ‘Right’ Track: Women, through their own volition or due to the institution, tend to work in roles that do not lead to SSAO positions. For example, studies show that Black women are concentrated in student affairs roles that are directly responsible for promoting diversity initiatives (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996; Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991;Moses, 1997, cited in Belk 2006)
  • Fewer Mentors: With few women SSAO, there are fewer women to mentor other women, creating a full-circle affect (Sagaria, & Rychener, 2002, as cited in Stimpson, 2009)

 

One thing to point out – all the research I used is on the gender binary of women and men – and that’s all I could find when reading on gender in student affairs. We who identify as women or men need to acknowledge that in talks of sexism, often our genderqueer, non-binary, trans colleagues are left out of the conversation.

It strikes me as peculiar that a profession that embraces (to some degree) social justice can still allow sexism to play out. Granted, it is difficult to move out of institutionalized oppression. Men don’t want to give up power – either consciously or unconscionably. As sociology research demonstrates, people prefer mentoring people that look like them and have shared experiences. So of course men in power are more likely to resonate with other men and thus (consciously or unconsciously) mentor them and show them preference.

Well. That’s some bullshit.

Men – do better. I need our male university presidents, male senior student affairs officers, male dean of students, male directors, male associate directors, and male assistant directors to do better. I need our male coordinators and graduate students to recognize sexism in the workplace and call it out + redirect attention to their female colleagues who are also doing excellent work.

For example:

  • Don’t just recognize your male employees for good work but not women (if you are a male recognized publicly for something your female colleagues are also doing, speak out and redirect attention to them)
  • When women speak in a meeting, listen. There’s a documented tendency that women’s ideas don’t get heard until a man says them – don’t do that.
  • When hiring for mid-level and upper-level positions, actively seek out women (especially women of color, disabled women, queer women, trans women, and women from other marginalized backgrounds). Spend some time/money on digital flyers, get some inforgraphics, encourage women in your organization to apply, share out in different networks.

And everybody always better look out for their trans colleagues – call out transphobia and exclusionary practices, recognize their work, and actively recruit folks for mid-level positions and beyond.

And women…we all know institutionalized sexism lives within us and that we, too, have been socialized to believe inequitable things about our own gender. Actively push against this socialization. Bring other women up with you in the organization – we have to look out for one another.

Whether you are taking today off or not, everyone needs to get to work (or continue working) on women’s equality.

Share your thoughts in the comment section or tweet me at @NikiMessmore.

resist to exist

Selecting a Student Affairs Conference Host City – Examining Ethics

Why are student affairs professionals outraged about NASPA’s 2016 conference location? And why aren’t they equally outraged about ACPA’s 2016 convention location?

Once the announcement of Indiana’s new law titled “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA); otherwise known as #SB101, was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence (R) on Thursday, March 26th, student affairs professionals across the nation stated their concern. The reason? One of the major student affairs professional organizations, NASPA, is set to host their 2016 conference in Indianapolis next March (as is the 2015 ASCA Gehring Institute; ACUHO-I and AFA have made statements as well).

There is valid concern that the RFRA is intended to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and the RFRA and political agenda of the state of Indiana is not congruent with the mission of student affairs. According to ThinkProgress, the RFRA  allows for “individuals who feel their religion has been burdened can find legal protection in the bill “regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” In fact, even the Republican legislators who wrote the bill intended it to be used to turn LGBTQ individuals away from businesses and adoption agencies[link].

Please recognize that the wording of the law allows for a local business, for example, to use RFRA as a DEFENSE of their refusal to service a party due to religious concern bu that it could still proceed legally. Josh Blackman’s blog has a helpful legal analysis and Matt Anderson’s blog really breaks it down why the IN law is more threatening than other states’ RFRA laws. President Clinton signed a federal RFRA (1993) but the difference with Indiana’s law is that the term “person” can be applied to larger entities like businesses. Additionally there are 19 other states that have passed their own version of the RFRA – including states the host many higher education conventions, like Florida and Texas [link].

It is interesting that, from what this author has been told and from her recollection, there was little debate about the location of ACPA’s (the other major SA professional organization) 2016 convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Sure, there was concern about the cost of affording a passport and travel to a world-class city, but little concern cited for trans* individuals and undocumented individuals.

Why should travel to Montréal be a concern?

To begin with, a passport is required for U.S.-bound individuals. There are a number of undocumented folks who attend ACPA conferences that may be unable to attend (although DACA folks may be able to). For folks identifying as trans*, it is very possible that their photo and assigned gender on their passport may not match up with their preferred gender and how their present themselves. This could lead to confusion and possible malice and harassment by officials who do not understand or even are transphobic; leading to delayed travel and possible ban on travel.

The Montreal Gazette has a section of “Transgender Issues” where current news stories are posted. There have been several violent physical attacks on gay and trans* individuals in recent weeks. Canada Parliament Members (PMs) are currently debating to pass Bill C-279 that would allow gender identity to fall under protected identities but are receiving incredible resistance from folks who ultimately “don’t want a biological male in the same bathroom as their daughters’.

According to the Montreal Gazette there are multiple systemic discrimination issues against trans* individuals, such as “Article 71 in the Civil Code stipulates that in order to alter their gender marker on legal documents, trans people must have undergone “medical treatments and surgical operations” which structurally modify “the sexual organs.” Other conditions include being at least 18 years old and Canadian citizenship” [link].

Yet there is very little outrage against ACPA and Montréal.

Now, I am an ACPA all the way! It is my professional home. Of course what I love about ACPA is it encourages questioning the establishment. Right now, it is questionable why the convention is located in Montréal, where trans* and undocumented folks have difficulty with access. I don’t believe this decision can be changed at this point, so I am not advocating for that, but we need to acknowledge that even if the NASPA 2016 Conference is in a state that actively discriminates against LBGTQ folks, the ACPA 2016 Convention is in a city that actively discriminates against trans* individuals and the location bars undocumented individuals from attending.

As someone I deeply admire (or to be blunt, I fangirl all about zir; GO FALCONS), put it on Twitter; Dr. Dafina Lazarus-Stewart noted how silent folks have been on ACPA compared to how they have been on NASPA and Indiana. And wow. Yes. Already there are multiple conversations going on about how NASPA should/should not pull out of Indianapolis for 2016. There are many conversations in the “Student Affairs Professionals” group [Link 1] [Link 2] [Link 3] and even a petition for NASPA to pull out of Indianapolis (with 496 signatures as of 3/28/15).

So why is there more silence around an issue that affects trans* individuals than there is around LGBTQ individuals?

Ignorance. Bias. Hatred.

The United States is ignorant on trans* issues – even media outlets don’t know how to cover them if they even opt to cover trans* stories. Typically LGBTQ issues in the news center on marriage equality – an issue that are important, yes! But also seen as more “fluffy”; many in the community do critique marriage equality activism as not radical enough and just a more palatable topic for white middle-class/wealthy LGB individuals that doesn’t challenge systems of power.

Historically trans* issues have been ignored. Worse, many people are taught through social systems like religion, family, school, and the media to hate and fear trans* individuals – whether it is a subconscious or conscious thought.

As individuals mostly residing in the United States, the collective ignorance and lack of concern of student affairs professionals for trans* individuals and their human rights is a predictable and verifiable outcome.

Question why you weren’t concerned about ACPA’s location.

Question why, if the news about Montréal is new to you, why you weren’t aware in the first place.

If you are cisgender (you identity with the sex you were assigned at birth), examine your privilege in all of this and educate yourself. I have and I am continuing to do so – because until the T*Circle  wrote an Open Letter to ACPA and I followed up with a friend I had no idea about any of the ACPA Montréal issues affecting my trans* colleagues.

And that is a problem.